As mentioned a few days ago, the Pittsburgh Pirates have signed international amateur free agents from many different countries. One of the more common countries is Mexico, but signing players from Mexico is very different from other countries. Today we take a look at the path taken to the pros by current DSL pitcher Armando Bustamante. He’s listed as Carlos Bustamante, but prefers the name Armando.
He originally signed with the Pirates in October, 2013, along with Mikell Granberry and Eumir Sepulveda. Of those three, Granberry has moved to the U.S. already and he’s currently in Extended Spring Training. Sepulveda was injured for most of last year and only returned during the last two weeks of the 2015 season. Along with Bustamante, he is healthy now and in Spring Training in the Dominican, getting ready for the season, which begins late next month.
We know when Bustamante signed with the Pirates, and also what he has been doing since. For those unfamiliar with him, he has pitched out of the bullpen the last two seasons and expects to assume that role again this year. The coaches there like his ability to pitch under pressure and fill any role out of the bullpen. He gets his fastball up to 90 MPH, and throws a sinker, a change, and his out pitch is a high-70’s slider.
Now we look into how he got to the Pirates and the part of the process that all players in Mexico go through to sign a pro deal.
Bustamante started in Little League and then played for a traveling team called the Nogales Roadrunners. That team actually played a lot in Arizona. He played international tournaments and traveled to Las Vegas, Louisiana, California and Florida. Back then he mostly played as a position player, either at third base or center field. He said he occasionally pitched, but more often than not he was a position player. Bustamante first started getting the notice of scouts when he was around 16 he said, and they first time the Pirates talked to him was about two years before he signed. He first met with current scout Jesus “Chino” Valdez, who was with the Pirates before this current front office took over in 2007.
When Bustamante was 16, Valdez told him that his future was as a pitcher. His basic sales pitch was that as a position player, he will have a career in Mexico. As a pitcher, he could make it to the Pirates.
Around that same time he talked to Valdez for the first time, Bustamante was drafted by Naranjeros de Hermosillo, a winter league team in Mexico. He was later traded to Aguilas de Mexicali (another winter league team) and he remains a member of that team to this day. Mikell Granberry is also with that team.
After Hermosillo drafted him, Jesus Valdez then signed Bustamante to Leones de Yucatan. If Bustamante were to play summer ball in Mexico after his career in U.S. pro ball is over, that would be the team he would play for, unless his rights were traded beforehand. Bustamante played for Yucatan for seven months before he signed with the Pirates.
He said the Pirates saw him 4-5 times before signing him. One of those times, Rene Gayo came to Hermosillo to see him pitch. After that, they sent him to the Dominican to see how he would do against more advanced hitters. After seeing him pitch the first time, Gayo told him that he would play for the Pirates someday.
That path players take in Mexico is what separates them from other countries. Bustamante needed to sign with a pro team before he signed with the Pirates. Granberry and Sepulveda were also signed to Yucatan before signing with the Pirates and all three players only received 25% of their signing bonus from the Pirates. That’s the same process that every player from Mexico goes through.
It seems unfair to the player that the team gets most of his bonus, but by doing that, he is able to play in Mexico once his pro career is over. It also allows him to play winter ball in Mexico. Without signing with teams in Mexico before he signs a pro deal, neither of those leagues are an option. Good players in Mexico make a decent living by playing summer and winter ball. If you think of it another way, the team in Mexico invests time and money in them before they sign a pro deal and then the players are being purchased from that team.
The Pirates have been connected to a few players out of Mexico this year, including a pair of highly regarded 15-year-old pitchers who won’t be able to sign until either July 2nd, or on their 16th birthday if they were born between July 2nd and September 1st. If either turns 16 after August 31st, they would need to wait until July 2, 2017 to sign. Whenever they sign though, they will go through the same process as every other player from Mexico.
PIRATES GAME GRAPH
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates won 9-3 over the Brewers on Sunday. They have off today as the travel to San Diego for three games. Francisco Liriano will return to the mound on Tuesday.
In Indianapolis, it’s a big day with Jameson Taillon making his second start and Jung-ho Kang starting his rehab with the team. As of the last update on Thursday, Kang had already played two games of five innings each down in Extended Spring Training, with no restrictions. He likely extended that beyond five innings since Thursday, and may only have a brief stay with Indianapolis before returning to the Pirates. Rehab players USUALLY don’t play on the road or move down a level, so with Indianapolis going on a road trip after Wednesday’s game, Kang will likely rejoin the Pirates on Thursday, barring any setbacks of course.
Taillon is coming off his first regular season game in two years. He went six innings last Wednesday, giving up one run on five hits, with no walks and six strikeouts.
For Bradenton, Brandon Waddell will make his third start, looking to extend his shutout streak of 11 innings to start the season.
MLB: Pittsburgh (7-6) @ Padres (4-9) 10:10 PM 4/19
Probable starter: Francisco Liriano (2.45 ERA, 9:13 BB/SO, 11.0 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (4-4) vs Toledo (5-2) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Jameson Taillon (1.50 ERA, 0:6 BB/SO, 6.0 IP)
AA: Altoona (4-6) @ Harrisburg (4-5) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Jason Creasy (4.91 ERA, 2:3 BB/SO, 11.0 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (4-7) vs Lakeland (5-6) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Brandon Waddell (0.00 ERA, 1:7 BB/SO, 11.0 IP)
Low-A: West Virginia (9-2) vs Kannapolis (4-7) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Logan Sendelbach (1.86 ERA, 2:5 BB/SO, 9.2 IP)
Here is the ninth strikeout from Tyler Glasnow on Saturday night. He allowed one run over five innings and didn’t walk a single batter.
4/16: Trevor Williams placed on disabled list. Jhondaniel Medina promoted to Indianapolis.
4/15: John Kuchno promoted to Indianapolis. Frank Duncan added to Altoona roster.
4/14: Cory Luebke placed on disabled list. Pirates recall Rob Scahill.
4/14: Pirates sign Justin Masterson.
4/14: Chad Kuhl assigned to Indianapolis.
4/13: Michael Morse designated for assignment. Pirates select contract of A.J. Schugel.
4/13: Pedro Florimon sent outright to Indianapolis.
4/13: West Virginia places Cesilio Pimentel on disabled list. Eric Karch added to roster.
4/11: Pirates release John Holdzkom.
4/6: Tampa Bay Rays claim Jake Goebbert off waivers from Pirates.
4/2: Pirates designate Pedro Florimon, John Holdzkom and Jake Goebbert for assignment.
4/2: Pirates place Jung-ho Kang, Jared Hughes and Elias Diaz on the disabled list retroactive to March 25.
4/2: Pirates release Jose Batista and Jandy Vasquez.
4/1: Pirates release Gerardo Navarro, Christopher De Leon and Enyel Vallejo.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including pitcher/announcer Steve Blass. He won 103 games over ten seasons for the Pirates and was on the mound at the end of the 1971 World Series. Blass has been announcing for the Pirates since 1983. You can check the link for a detailed bio from his playing days.
Other Pirates born on this date are: catcher Angelo Encarnacion(1995-96), pitcher Larry Foss(1961), catcher Bob Linton(1929), pitcher Jack Scott(1916) and first baseman Jack Rothfuss(1897). Linton has an interesting footnote to his career. He spent the entire season with the Pirates in 1929 and never saw his name in the starting lineup. All 17 career games he played were off the bench. Scott was a pitcher, who played just one game for the Pirates and came into that game as a pinch-hitter before getting on the mound. Rothfuss hit .313 in a late-season trial for the Pirates in 1897 and had the starting first base job going into 1898, but a three-month illness cost him that spot and he never played in the majors again.
Two significant Opening Days have occurred on this date, both before the Pirates moved to the National League. In 1885, the Pirates(then called the Alleghenys) played their first game in April. Their first three seasons all started in May. The next year, the team played their one and only Opening Day doubleheader in franchise history. They lost both games to the St Louis Browns, who are now the St Louis Cardinals, not to be confused with the St Louis Browns team that played in the American League. That team is now the Baltimore Orioles and they actually started as the Milwaukee Brewers in 1901.